The other day, an acquaintance asked me how things are going.
I replied the way I typically do when I engage in small talk. I smiled and said things are great. Sure, I get stressed out from time to time (on a daily basis actually), and life with three kids is hectic as hell, but people don’t really want to hear about all that.
She responded to my upbeat answer with a nod and a grin followed by, “Just livin’ the life, huh?”
For some reason, I sensed a bit of negativity in her tone. So instead of continuing with the exchange, I ignored her comment and pretended to be in a hurry. Unfortunately, the comment continued to nag at me for the rest of the week. What really bothered me was that I didn’t know why it bothered me. I mean, isn’t it a good thing if people think you’re “livin’ the life”?
Then I came to this conclusion. It’s a good thing only if they’re happy for you. In this case, I feel as though this particular person has the wrong impression of what the life I’m livin’ is actually like. It seems she might be under the impression that I sit around leisurely typing novels when the mood strikes me (while my children raise themselves), and I’m rewarded with large sums of money from Amazon. Um, no. Here’s a rundown of what my life as a work-at-home writer is really like.
Like other stay-at-home moms, I take care of most of the household duties. Laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc. I also take point on caring for our three children, which involves scheduling and providing transportation for extracurricular activities, making doctor and dentist appointments, dealing with correspondence from school, making my boys’ lunches for school, and making sure they all have clothing, outerwear and shoes that fit properly. While my boys are at school, I keep my 3-year-old occupied with daily preschool activities, music class, gymnastics, general play and LOTS of conversation. (The one and only thing I do for myself is participate in a group exercise class at the YMCA three days a week, during which my little one goes to the daycare. Oh, and I occasionally squeeze in a shower.) After I’m done cleaning up lunch dishes, my little one may or may not take a short nap. Either way, I have a limited amount of time to get a small bit of work done before my boys get home from school. When that time rolls around, I help with homework for about an hour after which I start dinner. Making, eating and cleaning up dinner typically takes anywhere from one to two hours, depending on whether we eat leftovers.
Mix in my boys’ extracurricular activities (soccer, karate, gymnastics and piano) and most nights we’re pushing 8:00 by the time everyone is getting ready for bed, which involves showers/baths, brushing teeth, stories and tucking in. It isn’t until at least 9:00 that I really get a chance to work. And if there’s one word I would associate with novel writing, it’s work. A hell of a lot of work. But my work isn’t limited to novel writing (which includes marketing and social media maintenance, by the way). I’m also a freelance editor because I have to do something to earn enough money to pay for everything that goes into publishing and marketing my novels. They certainly don’t pay for themselves!
Bedtime for me is typically between one and two a.m. every night, including weekends. Then I wake up with my children and do it all over again. Day after day.
So, to the acquaintance who thinks I’m “just livin’ the life,” why yes, yes I am. I love being able to stay home with my children, and I love being able to write novels. I also happen to be a night owl, so I don’t mind the late shifts. But none of it is easy, and I make very little money compared to the number of hours I spend tapping away at my keyboard. (To be honest, my monthly royalties typically aren’t even enough to cover our cable bill.)
My point is, being a work-at-home mom who’s a writer probably isn’t what most people would choose if they knew what it was really like. But I happen to LOVE IT. That’s why I gave up a secure, salaried teaching position to do it.
So, yes, I’m “livin’ the life.” But I work my ass off, and there’s not one bit of glamour involved. Regardless, *smiles* things are great!